This weekend, Dota 2 esports finally amps up big-time with the first Major of the Pro circuit season. ESL One Hamburg, while small in team count and time, will bring out the competition in the top teams of the scene, with $1 million and a massive chunk of Qualifying Points at stake.
The prospect of such a big event has brought out top-tier competition from around the world, most of which fought through the top talent in their region—and one of which pushed through hundreds of aspiring players in their Open Qualifiers. This brings in plenty of exciting storylines, some familiar and some fresh, to kick off the first Major this season.
The forefront contenders to many should be Team Liquid, which took the StarLadder i-League minor less than two weeks ago—and come into Hamburg in the same gameplay patch as their victory at The International 7. In order to overcome this powerhouse, teams need to either find a way to disrupt the champions’ victories or just be hyper-vigilant of Liquid’s progress, either of which must be accomplished without sacrificing momentum.
But anything can happen, as seven other teams are making their way to Germany for their shot at the prize. Among them is TI7 semifinalists Newbee. Despite the same patch and roster as their big run in August, they have yet to find victory, as they fell in the group stages at SL two weeks ago. In Hamburg, though, they’ll be back with a vengeance.
Virtus.Pro also comes as a contender to the throne. The CIS team was considered one of the strongest in the world coming into TI7, and their qualification into ESL One Hamburg is a solid check in their book. Like the two aforementioned teams, their roster has remained the same, meaning they have faith in their squad as they move into this season and event.
Not every team came out of TI7 unscathed, but doesn’t kill them makes them stronger. Having fallen out at TI7’s group stages, SEA-based Fnatic comes in with a fresh roster, with an international mix of talent ready to come to the LAN stage for the first time. They replaced Happy Feet due to the SEA team’s visa issues, but they had a solid showing during the Hamburg qualifiers, so they can pull out some surprises.
SG e-sports also arrives fresh-faced, with a full roster overhaul since the Seattle event. They were present at SL several weeks ago, and they took a series 2-0 off Chinese banner Vici Gaming. SG later fell to both SL finalists, but this full-Brazilian roster has shown they’re ready to battle again.
Returning from SL as well is the European staple banner Team Secret. Considered at the moment to be the second-best European team, they had a strong showing at SL, only to fall to Liquid in the playoffs. They also showed up to PGL Open, only to be taken out twice consecutively by NA’s new Immortals squad. With plenty of hindsight, the team has the opportunity to redeem themselves in Hamburg.
North America does have a bit to cheer for this time around, as Evil Geniuses are going onto take two of their two-weekend tournament run. Last weekend, they were taken out of PGL Open in the playoffs by China’s LGD-Gaming. Hopefully for the team, that was only a warm-up to this week’s big event.
And last, but far from least, is a team that has the opportunity to mark themselves as an underdog, one born from the ashes of a Chinese organizational scuffle. After defeating a strong roster of organizations in both the Open and Regional Qualifiers, Keen Gaming, formerly EHOME.Keen, will make their way to their first-ever international event. Will they be able to seize the opportunity to make their mark on the scene? Or will Hamburg send them back hungry?
If you’re ready for the action, ESL One Hamburg starts Thursday, October 26 and runs through Sunday.